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If the future of radio is in the hands of new car buyers, radio broadcasters should feel more at ease. According to a new international study by Edison Research, broadcast radio continues to dominate as the most preferred source of in-car entertainment across the globe. Almost all (90%) of the survey respondents said a broadcast radio tuner should be standard equipment in every car, a trend that is consistent across age groups, indicating strong demand among current and future car buyers.
WorldDAB commissioned the research in partnership with Radioplayer. The study — sponsored by the National Association of Broadcasters, Commercial Radio Australia, and Xperi — involved national online surveys in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. The 6,287 respondents, evenly split among the six countries surveyed, reported either purchasing or leasing a new vehicle within the past two years or that they plan to buy or lease a new vehicle in the next 12 months. Interviews took place between Sept. 1–21, 2021, and the data weighted to match the most recent population estimates from each country for age, gender, race and region.
A key outcome was the importance of a built-in radio tuner for potential car buyers — 82% said they would be less likely to buy or lease a vehicle without one. Furthermore, in a ranking of standard-fit audio features in a new car, a built-in radio tuner ranked the highest in order of importance (89%), ahead of USB ports, Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring technology, of which Android Auto ranked higher (65%) than Apple CarPlay (54%).
Preferred Programming: Music or Talk?
Day-to-day broadcast radio consumption among motorists remains significantly higher than for any other form of audio content — 65% of respondents said they listen to broadcast radio in the car “frequently,” versus 23% for online streaming music services and 15% for CDs. Echoing the usage levels, a clear majority (80%) agreed with the following statement: “radio provides a better listening experience in the car than other types of audio sources.” Music-reliant radio stations take note: most respondents (63%) said the primary reason for listening was “to get news and information,” followed by ‘to hear favorite songs’ (42%).
A clear majority don’t want to pay for radio — 93% said it is ‘important’ that radio should remain free to listen to — as it is currently via analog and digital broadcast radio tuners. Motorists’ concerns about data charges for streamed content lay behind the importance of free-to-air radio: a clear majority (70%) of those who currently listen to audio via their mobile device said they are ‘concerned’ about how much data they are using.
Asked about their most desired added-value in-car radio features, having an ‘ability to search for radio stations using voice controls’ was the most popular (mentioned by 58% of respondents), followed by ‘provision of content information’ (54%).
Ongoing Radio Consumption Trends
The car remains the most popular location for listening to radio, cited by an average of 89% of respondents, followed by 75% who listen at home and 39% who listen at work.
Tom Webster, senior vice president at Edison Research, comments: “This is a major piece of consumer research covering some of the biggest automotive markets, yet attitudes about radio among car buyers across all of the countries surveyed were uncannily similar.”
“It’s clear, too, that broadcast radio was singled out specifically as a must-have option. Roughly two-thirds of motorists across all countries surveyed indicated that they ‘would not listen to their favorite radio stations’ if they were only available online. For consumers, the availability of free, easy-to-access broadcast radio as standard is an essential part of the in-car entertainment system and looks set to remain so.”